OLYMPIA -- New rules required by lawmakers will ensure Delta High School does not prevent the Richland School District from receiving state aid for future construction projects.
Nathan Olson, spokesman for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, told the Herald the state weighs many factors when considering how much money to give a district for building new school buildings and additions. But the basic equation officials use compares student population to square footage of existing buildings in a district to determine the need to pay for additional space, he said.
The equation raises potential problems when applied to Delta High School, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) school is in Richland but attended by students from throughout the Tri-Cities.
Rich Puryear, executive director of financial services for the Richland School District, told the Herald, because the three districts rent the building for Delta High School from Columbia Basin College, officials do not count its square footage against Richland.
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But if the Richland School District built or bought a building for Delta, the entire square footage would count against the district, even though less than a third of the students are from Richland.
This would mean less funding for Richland to build new buildings.
"Well, that's not exactly fair for Richland," Olson said.
The state superintendent's office plans to adopt rules in July so that the Richland School District does not get penalized, Olson said. The mandate for the rules comes from Substitute Senate Bill 6038, sponsored by Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland.
Olson said officials likely will adopt a prorating system that would count a percentage of Delta High's square footage equal to the percentage of Richland students at the school.
"At this point, (the rules) would have no effect on us. In the future it could, if the district decides to purchase or construct a building for Delta," Puryear said.
The district is considering buying or building a new place for Delta High, but no decision has been made, Puryear said.
The rules would likely not affect Pasco and Kennewick school districts, Olson said, because the state would not count Delta High as part of their districts.
The rules would apply state construction money only. General state funding for students at Delta High comes from the districts they originate from. So when a Kennewick student enrolls in Delta High School, the funding transfers from Kennewick School District to the school.
When a school district applies for state construction help, the state will fully or partially match local money raised in the form of a bond, Olson said.
In 2003 voters in the Richland School District approved the most recent projects for the district. The bond raised $78 million locally and the state matched $37 million.
Another bond could appear on the ballot in the next year or two, Puryear said, but the district's school board would first have a public discussion before making a decision.